By Arden Moore
When it comes to holidays in February, Valentine’s Day tends to top the list. But to really show your pet love, consider embracing ways to participate in Responsible Pet Owners Month activities.
There are six four-leggers in my household and I am committed to bringing out the best in each of them — not just during this month, but every day of the year. I’m betting that you are the same with your pets.
So, what are some ways we can boost our levels of responsibility for our pets? For answers, I reached out to Dr. Lindsay Butzer, DVM. She practices veterinary medicine at the Clint Moore Animal Hospital in Boca Raton, and she is a PetMeds partner. She also represents a new breed of veterinarians who convey pet care advice in engaging ways on TikTok, Facebook, YouTube and other social media outlets.
“I wish every day would be Responsible Pet Owner Day,” says Butzer, whose personal pets include six dogs and a few ragdoll cats.
She practices alongside her father, Dr. Brian Butzer.
“I grew up in a double-wide mobile home while my parents were building the animal hospital,” she says. “I would hold my dad’s hand and go with him at night when he would check on the dogs with IVs or ones who just had surgeries. Seeing him have such a passion for animals impacted me. I knew as a young child that I also wanted to be a veterinarian.”
Topping her responsible owner list? Booking your pet’s annual comprehensive exam. This exam should include a thorough head to tail inspection, the taking of blood, urine and fecal samples to be analyzed and administering of any necessary vaccinations. Also, make sure you give your pet preventives against fleas, ticks and heartworms.
“Our pets age faster than we do, and a lot can happen to them in six months and in a year,” Butzer says. “A physical exam by a veterinarian is important because we may catch something you don’t. Maybe we detect swollen lymph nodes around the neck, or dental issues or anal gland issues under the tail.”
Recently, Kona, my 9-year-old terrier mix, underwent her comprehensive annual exam. Fortunately, her gums were healthy pink and there was no sign of tartar on her teeth.
However, she does have a front lower tooth that juts out.
My veterinarian instructed me to keep tabs on it and said that eventually, it may need to be removed. A day later, Kona’s blood, urine and fecal results came in with no detection of any health issue.
Putting a capital “R” in responsible pet ownership also includes making healthy food choices for your pet. Food is fuel. Fortunately, we live in a time where we have many options, from kibble and canned to freeze-dried, fresh and homemade diets.
For commercial diets, select a choice where the first ingredient listed is a recognized protein, such as chicken, salmon or beef — and not a long word that looks like it belongs in a chemical equation. And please get in the habit of measuring portions. It is hard to say no to those begging eyes, but obesity in pets can open the way for them to be at greater risk for diabetes, joint issues, heart conditions and more.
I confess I do a much better job in maintaining healthy weights in my pets — Kona, Emma, Casey, Mikey, Rusty and Baxter — than I do with my own weight.
A third way to demonstrate responsible pet ownership — not just this month but year-round — is to regularly stop and inspect each room of your house. Did you add anything that may be a danger to your curious pet, such as exposed electrical cords?
Stash medication bottles in your nightstand drawer. Never leave them out on a table or bathroom counter. A dog could easily crush open the bottle and swallow pills that could be toxic to his system.
Patrol the kitchen counter and remove any sharp knives or breakable bottles that could fall and shatter on the floor, cutting paws. If you enjoy baking that involves time for dough to rise, make sure you block the kitchen access to your pet. If it is swallowed, that dough will continue to expand in your pet’s chest and cause suffocation and even alcohol poisoning.
The fourth way to boost your pet ownership status is to engage in regular play and exercise with your pet. I do my best to take my dogs, Kona and Emma, on daily walks. I purposely vary the time and the route to allow them to experience new sights, sounds and smells.
“Dogs love walks,” says Butzer. “Walks are good for them so that they don’t go stir crazy being in the house all day. Walks also help you and your dog bond. Walks are good for flushing out a dog’s system and keeps the synovial fluid flowing in their joints. After the walk, they get drinks of water and may go to their crate or doggy bed for a nap so you can get work done. It’s a win-win.”
As for indoor cats, purposeful play keeps their lives enriched. My four felines love climbing up and down our sturdy cat tree, swatting spring toys across the kitchen floor and stalking a feather wand toy I wiggle down the hallway.
“Play time stimulates their brains and works their muscles,” says Butzer. “And for indoor cats, always make sure they have a view of the outside by providing a sturdy window perch. They love checking out birds, squirrels and other activities going on in your neighborhood.”
So, how do you plan to celebrate being a responsible pet owner this month? Your pet will appreciate you even more.
Follow Dr. Butzer
Catch entertaining and informative videos from Dr. Lindsay Butzer on social media. Here are her links:
Arden Moore is an author, speaker and master certified pet first-aid instructor. She hosts a radio show, Arden Moore’s Four Legged Life (www.fourleggedlife.com), and the weekly Oh Behave! podcast on PetLifeRadio.com. Learn more by visiting www.ardenmoore.com.